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See Kabuki at Minamiza

Listed under Entertainment in Osaka, Japan.

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If you’ve never come across Kabuki before you’re probably still familiar with the look of it - the heavily made up faces painted white with their emotions drawn on in symbolic colours, the traditional costumes and complex sets behind actors who appear to be posing like a Japanese screen print?

Kabuki is performed almost as a series of friezes, the dialogue is old fashioned and delivered in monotone and the overall impression is one of melodrama. Programmes are long, mostly more than three hours, but the staging is creatively imagined with lots of special effects. Major Kabuki themes are historic events, relationships and moral conflicts and like the works of Shakespeare, much of the audience is already familiar with the story behind the play. Some performances can be more akin to pantomime with the audience calling out the names of the character’s family as they enter and actors striking familiar poses rather than ‘acting’ as we’re familiar with it.

The origins of Kabuki can be traced back to the dry river beds of Kyoto, 1603 where a young woman began performing a new kind of dance drama which instantly caught on. Minamiza in Kyoto is Japan’s oldest Kabuki theatre, built in 1615. The current theatre was completed in the 1920’s from the original design. You can still go there to see a traditional show today. Be warned shows are long and often difficult to follow. The Shakespeare of Kabuki was a team of three, Takeda Izumo II, Miyoshi Shoraku and Namiki Senryu I who wrote their three greatest works between 1746 and 1748.

These are the plays to see if you have the opportunity: Kanadehon Chushingura (Treasury of the Loyal Retainers), Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees) and Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami (Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy).

One of the other main Kabuki theatres is the Kabukiza Theatre in Ginza, Tokyo where non Japanese speakers can hire headphones and you can buy a ticket to see only a portion of the performance.

Written by  World Reviewer Staff.

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